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Thomas Hutchinson (9 September 1711 – 3 June 1780) was a businessman and historian in the years before the American Revolution; politically, he was a Loyalist. He has served as lieutenant governor and then governor of Massachusetts from 1758 to 1774.
Benjamin Franklin had worked with Hutchinson in 1754, as part of the Albany Convention following the outbreak of the French and Indian war. Together, they attempted to draft a plan for colonial union; in order to unite the often-competing colonies into a more coherent form of organisation.
In June 1773, some letters written several years earlier by Hutchinson and Andrew Oliver, his lieutenant governor and brother-in-law, were published by a Boston newspaper.
During the 1760s, relations between Great Britain and the American colonies were already quite tense, mostly because the British Parliament was able to raise taxes to colonies without any kind of colonial representations in the parliament; and as the Crown needed increased funds, they often did so (see the 1765 Stamp Act and the 1767 Townshend Acts, for example). Hutchinson and Oliver wrote a series of letters to Thomas Whately, an assistant to Prime Minister George Grenville, containing suggestions on how to respond to protest against these acts. After becoming governor of Massachusetts, the loyalist Hutchinson entered a very heated debate with the provincial assembly and the governor's council, which were both dominated by politicians opposed to the British Parliament's authority.
At the time, Franklin was acting as agent for Massachusetts in London. The colonial secretary, William Legge, Lord Darthmouth, demanded that the provincial assembly retract its response to one of Hutchinson's speeches. Franklin, however, had acquired some of Hutchinson and Oliver's letters to Whately. He argued that, in these letters, Hutchinson and Oliver's had misled the Parliament about the situation in the colonies. While Franklin did not intend to make the letters public, in June 1773 they were published in the Boston Gazette, leading to a massive scandal known as 'The Hutchinson Letters Affair'.The letters were wildly reprinted and generated a massive swarm of protests, which ultimately culminated with the Boston Tea Party. Hutchinson, incidentally, had business links with the ships transporting tea; as governor, he refused to allow the ships to leave the harbour, choosing to ignore protests- and thus leading them to throw the tea in the harbour once the deadline passed. Franklin, together with the Assembly, petitioned for the recalling of Hutchinson.The British Parliament responded by passing the Coercive Acts, which in turn led to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.
It is argued that the Hutchinson Letters Affair and British Parliament's response to it is what made Franklin a committed Patriot. Using the facts I have outlined, you could support this point. To approach the question of how Hutchinson meeting Franklin influenced the latter's political career based on the outline facts, try to think through the following questions:
-What are the political values that Franklin stood for? What were his political ideals? How did they differ from Hutchinson's? What similar points did they have?(Try to think this through both the Albany Convention and the Hutchinson Letters Affair).
-What exactly, in the outlined events, did compel Franklin to become a Patriot? What made him disenchanted with British rule? And how does it relate to what Hutchinson did?
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